Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

New boys Ards geared up for big rollercoaster ride

Pointing the way: Ards boss Niall Currie hopes his players rise to the challenge against Cliftonville

Niall Currie wants his Ards players to embrace their baptism of fire in the Premier League against defending champions Cliftonville at Solitude by telling them 'this is what football is all about.'

And after being promoted as Championship winners last season Currie is rightly approaching his own debut campaign in the top flight with a belief that the north-Down club can have an impact.

Ballinamallard United are now the yardstick for newly promoted clubs after finishing fifth last season and after earning praise for performances in cup competitions over the last couple of seasons, Currie is ready to meet the challenges of the Premier League head-on.

"From my point of view playing Cliftonville on the opening day of the season is fantastic and it's what football is all about," said Currie whose side will play home fixtures at Dixon Park before switching to Clandeboye Park in November.

"We're now at the highest level of football in this country and we're ready for a rollercoaster of a year.

"We know that there will be good days and bad days, up and downs.

"That's why it's important to have good character and that the players believe in themselves.

"I have no problem believing in them. I know that I have some talented boys in the squad and it's up to them to show that on the pitch."

Currie's players have backed up his belief with performances in big games.

They held Linfield until 13 minutes from time in an IRN-BRU League Cup game last season, while in the Irish Cup they pushed Portadown to the latter stages of the game before going down 1-0.

Those games, however, were enough to reassure Currie that his team will be able to compete among the big boys.

"On our day we are a match for anyone and we firmly believe that," he said.

"We were fantastic against Portadown in the Irish Cup quarter-finals before losing 1-0.

"We were 1-1 with Linfield after 75 minutes in the League Cup, so we have shown our credentials.

"When you get to this level though you have to kick on and develop a level of consistency.

"We have shown on a one-off occasion that we can give a good account of ourselves, but now we have to go to the next level and do it week in, week out."

That is something that Ballinamallard did all the way through last season as they silenced the doubters and finished just four points away from a European place, with the third best defensive record in the league.

"Ballinamallard were unbelievable last season and how well they did was refreshing for everyone," said Currie.

"This is a cruel league though and if you're not on your game you can be severely punished.

"We are coming in with a lot of confidence and belief.

"We only suffered one defeat last season and Warrenpoint Town are coming up with us having been good enough to beat Donegal Celtic over two games.

"That shows the quality that exists in the Championship and nobody will take us for granted."

The signings of Andy Hunter and Ryan Henderson will bring much needed Premier League experience to the Ards squad, while William Bingham, Willie Faulkner and Ben Roy will add a youthful exuberance and some pace to the attack. But they couldn't have asked for a tougher start.

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